House Intelligence panel to subpoena DHS over whistleblower

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Tuesday he will subpoena the Department of Homeland Security after a department whistleblower wasn’t allowed access to documents and clearance he needs to testify.

Brian Murphy said in a whistleblower complaint earlier this month that he was pressured by more senior officials to suppress facts in intelligence reports about Russian election interference and other matters. Schiff said he will issue two subpoenas to the department for documents and testimony after “unnecessary delay and obstruction” over materials that would allow Murphy to testify to the panel behind closed doors.

Murphy has agreed to tell his story to Congress, but his lawyer has said he cannot appear until he resolves the issues with the department over access to information.

Schiff, D-Calif., said the committee would compel the document production by Oct. 6. The second subpoena would demand that DHS official Joseph Maher, Murphy’s temporary replacement in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, testify in an open hearing Friday to explain why the department is delaying security clearances to Murphy’s attorneys and failing to produce documents to the committee, as well as to answer questions about Murphy’s complaint.

Schiff said in a statement that the panel “will no longer tolerate the obstruction and attempts to run out the clock by the department.”

Murphy said in the complaint that he was pressured by senior officials to suppress facts in intelligence reports that President Donald Trump might find objectionable, including information about Russian interference in the election and the rising threat posed by white supremacists. The department has denied his allegations.

A former FBI agent and Marine Corps veteran, Murphy also alleged that senior DHS officials pressed him to alter reports so they would reflect administration policy goals. He said he was demoted from his post as principal deputy under secretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis for refusing to go along with the changes and for filing confidential internal complaints about the conduct. He remains with the department in a different capacity.

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Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf Defies House Subpoena to Testify Before Congress | National News

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf did not show up to testify in front of a House committee Thursday, defying a subpoena lawmakers issued last week compelling him to appear.

Wolf skipped Thursday’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing on threats to national security, an anticipated move that punctuated days of back-and-forth between committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, and the Department of Homeland Security over Wolf’s appearance.

President Donald Trump in late August announced his intention to nominate Wolf, who has served as the acting DHS secretary for 10 months, to the permanent secretary position, and formally did so on Sept. 10. DHS last week told the House Homeland Security Committee that Wolf would be unavailable to testify as previously scheduled because it would be “contrary to standard practice” for a nominee to testify while his nomination was pending. Thompson then issued a subpoena for Wolf to appear Thursday.

Wolf was supposed to appear alongside FBI Director Christopher Wray, who did testify before the committee.

DHS, which called the subpoena “brazenly partisan,” says officials offered to instead send the department’s No. 2, Ken Cuccinelli, to testify at the hearing.

Thompson criticized Wolf’s decision not to appear Thursday during his opening statement at the hearing, noting that there is no legal prohibition barring Wolf from testifying.

“Mr. Wolf has run the Department of Homeland Security for the last 10 months and has been responsible for numerous decisions directly relevant to the subjects the Committee intends to explore,” Thompson said. “Regrettably, he has chosen to defy the subpoena. That he would refuse to come before the committee after committing to do so should appall every member of this committee. Insisting Mr. Wolf keeps his commitment to testifying before Congress isn’t playing politics – it’s doing our job.”

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Thompson also noted that Wolf has made numerous media appearances since his nomination to the permanent secretary position, “including no fewer than four appearances on Fox News.”

During the hearing, Cuccinelli and the committee got into a spat on Twitter about the matter.

The brouhaha comes amid increased scrutiny of Wolf’s position and actions. Last week, an explosive whistleblower report alleged that Wolf and Cuccinelli pressured analysts to alter reports on Russian election interference, downplay the threat of violent white supremacists and make other changes to intelligence reports.

In August, the agency that serves as Congress’ independent investigative watchdog concluded that both Wolf and Cuccinelli were ineligible for their current positions – a finding DHS has dismissed as incorrect.

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DHS says it won’t make officials available for questioning in House probe of Portland protests

The House Intelligence Committee’s request to interview several DHS officials “will not be accommodated at this time,” Assistant Secretary Beth Spivey wrote to the committee chairman Monday, arguing that the committee had unreasonably broadened its scope after receiving a whistleblower complaint from Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of the department’s intelligence office.

Murphy has alleged that senior DHS officials, acting on orders from the White House, have tried to color intelligence reports in ways that favor Trump’s campaign rhetoric. Murphy claimed in a complaint filed last week with the DHS inspector general that the department’s acting secretary, Chad Wolf, instructed him in May to stop reporting Russian interference in the election and to focus his office’s efforts on China and Iran, two countries Democratic lawmakers briefed on intelligence say are not engaged in the same aggressive attempts to influence the elections as Russia.

Spivey said the committee had appeared to base its request to interview more DHS officials on Murphy’s complaint. While declining to make those witnesses available, the department alluded to an email Spivey said Murphy wrote July 25, in which she said he wrote, “The acting secretary [Wolf] has never given me any direction on what to do Regarding [sic] threats” to the election.

The letter from Spivey to committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) did not include the full email from Murphy, and it was not clear what else he may have written on the matter.

‘The Department is trying to have it both ways by making only a select few witnesses available to answer a very narrow set of questions and selectively releasing a small amount of documents in an obvious effort to whitewash serious allegations of misconduct by DHS’s leadership, all while refusing to make available other documents and witnesses who can testify to a broader pattern of misconduct and politicization of intelligence,” Schiff said in a statement.

He said the committee could consider “compulsory process” to force the department to cooperate. The intelligence office is part of the broader intelligence community, a collection of agencies including the CIA, and is therefore under the intelligence committee’s jurisdiction.

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House Democrats subpoena DHS chief to appear at House hearing

Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee have subpoenaed Chad Wolf to testify about threats facing the nation, a request that left Wolf “very disappointed,” he said.

Chairman Bennie Thompson issued the subpoena to the acting Homeland Security Secretary attendance for a Sept. 17 hearing. The committee said Wolf reneged on a commitment to appear Sept. 8.

WOLF SAYS ‘LONE, HOMEGROWN’ TERROR THREAT IS TOP DHS FOCUS 19 YEARS AFTER 9/11 

“Nineteen years after the attacks of 9/11, we continue to face grave threats to the homeland. From the coronavirus pandemic to the rise of right-wing extremism to ongoing election interference, there are urgent threats requiring our attention,” Thompson said in a statement. “Mr. Wolf’s refusal to testify – thereby evading congressional oversight at this critical time – is especially troubling given the serious matters facing the Department and the Nation.”

Wolf pushed back, telling ‘Special Report’ late Friday that he was “very disappointed” in the move.

He said that he agreed to testify on two separate occasions in August, both about worldwide threats and civil unrest in Portland. But since then, President Trump has formally nominated him to take the job he now holds in an acting capacity.

“Since that time I have been nominated, and it has been longstanding practice that as you go up for a nomination, you don’t testify on another matter,” he told host Bret Baier.

SCHIFF REVEALS NEW WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT ALLEGING SUPPRESSION OF RUSSIAN ELECTION INTERFERENCE INTEL REPORTS

He said that DHS offered acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli to testify in his place, and that, “I am happy to testify to the committee once my confirmation process goes through one way or another.”

“So, we have been very accommodating to the committee, and unfortunately, it has come down to this,” he said.

Meanwhile, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced the committee is looking into a complaint about DHS and intelligence reports on Russian election interference.

“We’ve received a whistleblower complaint alleging DHS suppressed intel reports on Russian election interference, altered intel to match false Trump claims and made false statements to Congress,” Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “This puts our national security at risk.”

He added: “We will investigate.”

Wolf called the complaint “completely false” and “a fabrication.”

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“We have been very clear regarding Russia interference in our elections …” Wolf said on ‘Special Report. “We have produced over 27 different reports over the last 12 months, I believe three alone in the month of August. We provided over 40 different briefings, in-person briefings, to members of Congress … about Russian interference in our elections. I have talked about it in media appearances such as this, I have talked about it in congressional testimony and I have talked about it even this week in my state of the homeland security address.”

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Charles Creitz contributed to this report.

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House panel chairman issues subpoena to compel acting DHS secretary to testify

Thompson said that although DHS committed to Wolf testifying Sept. 17, he “reneged on the commitment on September 8,” forcing him to issue a subpoena.

“Nineteen years after the attacks of 9/11, we continue to face grave threats to the homeland. From the coronavirus pandemic to the rise of right-wing extremism to ongoing election interference, there are urgent threats requiring our attention,” Thompson said. “Mr. Wolf’s refusal to testify — thereby evading congressional oversight at this critical time — is especially troubling given the serious matters facing the department and the nation.”

In a Sept. 8 letter to Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, Beth Spivey, said Wolf’s appearance before the committee would be inappropriate as officials formally nominated typically do not testify to Congress before they have been confirmed by the Senate.

Wolf was installed to run the department about 10 months ago on an interim basis, a move that a government watchdog has called unlawful. Trump formally nominated Wolf Thursday.

Spivey said Ken Cuccinelli, who is filling the role of deputy secretary, could testify in place of Wolf.

The department had no immediate comment Friday about the subpoena.

The hearing will be held days after a senior department official alleged that he was told to stop providing intelligence reports on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election, in part because it “made the President look bad,” an instruction he believed would jeopardize national security.

The official, Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of intelligence and analysis at DHS, said in a whistleblower complaint that on two occasions he was told to stand down on reporting about the Russian threat and alleged that senior officials told him to modify other intelligence reports, including about white supremacists, to bring them in line with Trump’s public comments, directions he said he refused.

On July 8, Murphy said in the complaint, Wolf told him that an “intelligence notification” regarding Russian disinformation efforts should be “held” because it was unflattering to Trump, who has long derided the Kremlin’s interference as a “hoax” that was concocted by his opponents to delegitimize his victory in 2016.

Shane Harris contributed to this report.

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House chairman subpoenas DHS acting secretary Wolf for Sept. 17 hearing

Spivey emphasized that DHS had been willing to make Wolf’s deputy Ken Cuccinelli available to testify, which she said should have been sufficient since he’s fully versed in the same subjects as Wolf.

Thompson said in a statement that Wolf’s refusal to testify at the panel’s annual “worldwide threats” hearing was an abdication at a critical time.

“The Committee has not only the authority, but also an obligation to execute its Constitutional oversight responsibilities regarding Mr. Wolf’s decisions and the Department’s actions in securing the homeland,” Thompson said.

The subpoena is the culmination of a series of exchanges between Thompson and DHS that began in June. He said earlier efforts to schedule the hearing in June and July were unworkable for other agencies intending to participate in the hearing, including the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center. Thompson said that DHS indicated Wolf would be available on Sept. 17. Other agencies confirmed their availability for that date as well, Thompson said.

Thompson acknowledged Wolf’s expected nomination as permanent secretary but emphasized that “[s]hould you be nominated, there is no legal prohibition barring you from testifying before the Committee.”

“Moreover, while the relied upon practice may be reasonable in circumstances where the nominee has only served in an ‘acting’ capacity for a short period of time, that is not your situation. The Department has been without a Senate-confirmed Secretary for 17 months,” Thompson added.

In her reply to Thompson, Spivey said Cuccinelli is still willing to appear on Sept. 17 if the committee requests it. In her letter to the panel earlier in the week, Spivey said DHS had informed the Senate of Wolf’s unavailability for a worldwide threats hearing as well, given his pending nomination.

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DHS rejects House Democrats’ call for Wolf to testify

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday said it was rejecting Democrats’ call for acting agency Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfMicrosoft warns Russia, China and Iran targeting US election Hillicon Valley: Whistleblower alleges top DHS officials sought to alter intelligence products to fit Trump’s comments | House panel details ‘serious’ concerns around elections in four states | Irish agency investigates Facebook’s EU-US data transfer Former DHS chiefs call for stepped-up response to election threats MORE to appear before the panel, arguing it’s unprecedented for a nominee to testify during the confirmation process on unrelated matters.

In a letter sent to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonDemocrats divided over 1998 embassy bombing settlement Russia ‘amplifying’ concerns around mail-in voting to undermine election: report Hillicon Valley: Democrats demand answers over Russian interference bulletin | Google Cloud wins defense contract for cancer research | Cyberattack disrupts virtual classes MORE (D-Miss.) on Friday — which comes in response to Thompson’s letter requesting Wolf’s presence at a hearing titled “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland” slated to take place on Sept. 17 — Assistant DHS Secretary Beth Spivey slammed the assertion that Wolf’s appearance is necessary, noting the agency offered to allow senior official Ken Cuccinelli to appear before the committee to testify on threats instead.

“I had written to you on September 8, 2020 that it would be contrary to standard practice for  the Acting Secretary, as the President’s selection (and announced at the time as the President’s future  nominee) to be Secretary of Homeland Security, to testify before the Committee on Homeland  Security on a subject matter unrelated to his nomination while that nomination was pending,” Spivey wrote, arguing the “arguments in your [Thompson’s] letter are without merit.”

Spivey noted that Trump formally nominated Wolf to officially serve as secretary Sept. 10, asserting that Wolf will not testify until he is officially confirmed. She added that it is a standard that has long been practiced by both parties. 

“From that moment onward, the Acting Secretary became unavailable to testify before Congress on matters unrelated to his nomination and will regain the ability to do so when the Senate completes the confirmation process,” the letter says.  

“This Presidential nomination obviates any concern that the Acting Secretary’s declining to testify at the Worldwide Threats hearing was premature, conjectural or speculative. 

“Second, the right of a President’s nominee to abstain from testifying on matters unrelated to his  or her nomination while such a nomination is pending is an unwritten rule honored by Chairmen from both sides of the aisle for many decades.”

Spivey went on to argue that the agency has cooperated with the panel’s calls to supply information pertaining to the topic of the hearing, questioning why the alternatives offered by DHS to testify are not considered adequate.  

She said other witnesses who are being called before the committee are not at the Cabinet level, arguing Wolf’s presence would be “inappropriate.” She noted that Wolf had previously “volunteered to testify before

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House Intel Expands DHS Probe After Whistleblower Allegations About Disinfo, ‘Antifa’

The House Intelligence Committee is expanding an existing investigation into the Department of Homeland Security to address a whistleblower’s allegations that top officials politicized intelligence to aid President Donald Trump.

The whistleblower complaint, written by the department’s former top intelligence official, alleges that Trump administration higher-ups pressured him and others to distort intelligence products on Russia, white supremacists and “antifa” in order to reflect Trump’s priorities. The White House and DHS have denied the allegations made in the complaint.

“Based on information that has recently come to light, the Committee’s investigation must now encompass and review a wider range of reported abuses, deficiencies, and problems, including allegations of improper politicization of intelligence and political interference in [the Office of Intelligence and Analysis’] mission and activities,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) wrote in a letter to Joseph B. Maher, the DHS official now performing the former job of the demoted whistleblower.

The whistleblower, Brian Murphy, alleges he was demoted from his position as acting undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis for refusing to go along with department higher ups — including Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his top deputy, Ken Cuccinelli — who Murphy said sought to manipulate intelligence analyses.

Notably, the committee was already investigating the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. That investigation began after news broke last month that, among other things, the office had collected information on journalists who were reporting on the federal presence in Portland.

Murphy was overseeing the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the time, and his whistleblower complaint addresses that scandal, calling press reporting on it “significantly flawed.” The complaint asserts that “DHS I&A never knowingly or deliberately collected information on journalists, at least as far as Mr. Murphy is aware or ever authorized.”

Murphy’s complaint alleges that, though Wolf “knew” there was no merit to the press about the scandal, “the removal and reassignment of Mr. Murphy would be politically good for Mr. Wolf, who wanted to be officially nominated as the DHS Secretary.”

Schiff’s letter Friday significantly expands the scope of the committee’s investigatory work.

For one thing, Murphy’s allegations go back to 2018, when he alleges that then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and others misled Congress about the threat of known and suspected terrorists crossing the southern border. Murphy also alleged that Cuccinelli wanted to retaliate against DHS staff whose work on Central America he considered to be the product of “deep state intelligence analysts.”

What grabbed headlines, though, was Murphy’s claim that Wolf and Cuccinelli pressured him to alter an intelligence document to downplay the threat of white supremacist violence and emphasis “antifa.”

Separately, Murphy alleged, he was excluded from the drafting process of an intelligence notification on Russian disinformation efforts after Wolf told him the notification should be “held” because it “made the President look bad.”

In his letter to Maher, Schiff listed several DHS officials with whom the committee would request transcribed interviews. And he said he appreciated the department’s pledge to “cooperate with the Committee’s expanded

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House Intelligence Committee expands probe into DHS office

The House Intelligence Committee is expanding its investigation into alleged abuses and improper politicization at the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), days after the committee released a whistleblower complaint filed by a senior DHS official who alleged that he was retaliated against for refusing to suppress reports on white supremacist organizations and Russia’s election interference efforts.

“Recent developments have obligated the Committee to expand the scope of its ongoing investigation,” Committee Chairman Adam Schiff wrote in a letter to Joseph Maher, the senior official performing the duties of the undersecretary for intelligence and analysis. The committee over the summer began an investigation into the actions of DHS officials in Portland, Oregon, amid ongoing protests.

“The Committee’s investigation must now encompass and review a wider range of reported abuses, deficiencies, and problems, including allegations of improper politicization of intelligence and political interference in I&A’s mission and activities,” Schiff continued. He referenced the complaint by Brian Murphy, the former undersecretary of intelligence and analysis.

The committee is requesting documents, as well as transcribed interviews with I&A officials. Murphy is expected to be deposed before the Intelligence Committee on September 21.

In his complaint, filed September 8, Murphy said that he was instructed by then-Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf to withhold an intelligence notification on Russian activities because it “made the president look bad.” 

Murphy objected, the complaint says, telling Wolf “it was improper to hold a vetted intelligence product for reasons for political embarrassment.” 

He claims he was later excluded by Wolf from meetings on the subject and that the draft was ultimately edited in a “misleading” way in order to “place the actions of Russia on par with those of Iran and China,” which, Murphy says, is “inconsistent with the actual intelligence data.”  

The draft with the revised analysis was then leaked to the media, according to the complaint, which also details other instances of misconduct and intelligence manipulation by senior Trump administration officials in the White House and DHS.

DHS confirmed earlier this month that it withheld publication of a July intelligence bulletin to law enforcement agencies warning that Russia may try to undermine Joe Biden’s candidacy by denigrating his mental and physical health, citing “quality concerns” about the report’s sourcing. A source familiar with the draft DHS report told CBS News that the memo was withheld it because it was poorly written and thinly sourced.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio and Ranking Member Mark Warner also announced Friday that they will investigate some of Murphy’s claims.

“These allegations, if true, raise serious concerns about a potential disregard for the objectivity and impartiality of intelligence analysis and the role of I&A in the Department,” Rubio and Warner said in a letter to Maher.

Murphy was reassigned in August amid reporting that his office compiled “intelligence reports” about journalists and protesters in Portland.

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